Authors: Deborah Kreiser
“I told you. My grandmother said my mother was the same way. She had a sudden growth spurt at seventeen-and-a-half, as well.” I am so glad I can tell the truth, without telling her the whole story.
“Hey, I know your mom was French, but still, it'sâ¦ weird.”
I pull a face.
“I don't mean you're weird. But the situation is. C'mon, you know what I mean.” The bell rings, and she sighs. “I love you no matter how you look, toots. But I feel like there's something going on here you're not telling me. I'm here for you, no matter what. BFFs?” She offers me her pinky, our traditional sign-off. We wrap our pinkies together before heading to classes in opposite directions.
I go straight to calc, where Mrs. Costello has us trade homework with the person sitting next to us so we can correct each other's problems. Tori Green, who's even more of an overachiever than I am, is busy reviewing my paper, a confused expression on her face. Meanwhile, her answers are perfect.
Realizing I have to address the issue, I ask Tori what's wrong. “I think the answers are right, but I don't understand the solutions as you wrote them,” she whispers. My heart sinks. I have no idea how to explain, since I didn't solve the problems myself. Regardless, we hand the papers up to the front and proceed to get our daily lesson. I'm usually good at math, so having errors on my homework bothers me.
“Don't worry about it so much,” Tori says to me after the bell rings. “
que sera sera.
I manage a smile as she pats my shoulder.
“That's been my attitude about college, too. I'm trying not to go nuts waiting.”
“Oh, yeah? Where'd you apply?” I ask as we start walking out the door together.
“Cornell. Early decision.”
“Yeah, my dad went there, too. But I wish I knew already!” she groans.
something I can do. With a little whisper, I make sure an acceptance letter arrives in Tori's mailbox today. Whatever the admissions office decided, I've made sure she's in.
“Did you say something?” she asks, with an odd glance.
I shake my head. “Nope. Gotta get to class. See you later.”
She waves and takes off in the opposite direction.
Well, onward to my next classes: PE, French, a double period of AP Biology, then lunch, followed by AP European history. So many guys come up and talk to me during lunch that I have almost no chance to re-review my timeline. Just before the bell rings for the end of lunch, I realize it reads like a college-level textbook, not at all like something I would have written.
Too late now.
I pass it in to Mr. Valdez as I walk in the classroom and hope for the best.
It doesn't get any better during AP English, my next class, where we have a quiz scheduled. I am oblivious now to any attention I might be getting, growing increasingly nervous and feeling underprepared. Even though the material is stuff we've covered in class, usually I do a thorough review the night before. I had figured my wish last night would take care of it, but I am realizing wishes won't always come true the way I would expect.
I fumble through the questions, not confident in my answers, and realizing I can't wish to have particular knowledge. Being a genie has a learning curve, I guess. Maybe this is what my grandmother meant when she said, “Be careful what you wish for.” I make it through the rest of the class, hoping for the best from my quiz, but thinking I'll need to rework my
Crime and Punishment
It is a relief when school ends and Leia and I head over to swim practice. Joel catches us in the parking lot and reminds me of our meeting with Coach Terri. Leia gives me a twisted smile that almost looks like a scowl, and says she'll get a ride home from someone else. I'm trying to get used to the sight of my body when I get into my suit; still, I keep my towel wrapped around me until the last minute.
One of the things I like best about swimming, and any solitary exercise, is I can let my mind go while I'm enjoying the physical movement. It's the closest I've ever come to real meditation, and, despite the hard work, I find it relaxing. So, after practice, we shower and Leia takes off with Luke and his buddy Eric. I think I see Eric checking Leia out, and make a mental note to tell Leia when we talk later.
I feel a tap on my shoulder and spin around to find Joel waiting. “Come on,” he says, “Coach Terri's in her office.” We head down the hall and into a tiny chlorinated room with a huge window, which overlooks the pool. Coach glances up from her computer and waves us into the room.
“So, team captains, what's the meeting about?” she asks, the chair creaking as she leans back. She gestures to the other chairs squeezed into the corner.
We seat ourselves, and I wave a hand at Joel. “Hmm?”
“Uh, I was thinking we needed to strategize about how to inspire the team this year,” he says, glancing at me. “Since it's my last year â and Genie's â I wanted to go out on a high note. I think it would help if we got more of the school to come to our meets. Maybe we could persuade the cheerleaders to come to our tougher competitions? I thought it would, you know, motivate people if they felt there was a lot of school support for us.”
Coach Terri had been nodding her head as Joel spoke, and after a moment she says, “You know, that's not a bad idea. Usually it's only the swim team parents who come. It could work to have more folks here. Why don't I talk to Ms. Jacinta about getting the cheer squad here, at least for our season opener?”
“Don't you think the cheerleaders might be a bit of aâ¦ distractionâ¦ for the boys' team, Coach?” I point out. “I mean, wellâ¦”
“Not any more than our new distraction,” she interrupts, glancing my way. Then a horrified expression spreads across her face.
I blush crimson and stare down at the floor, knowing what she means.
There is an embarrassed silence, and then Joel clears his throat. “So, let's, uh, move forward with these ideas? I'll ask each of the boys to invite two or three friends to come to the meet. Genie, will you do the same for the girls? Let's pack them in this season.”
Thank you, Joel, for changing the subject.
“Sure, sounds good. Anything else? Okay. I've got to go,” I say, still not able to make eye contact.
I'm slipping out the door, and I hear Coach Terri say, “Good ideas, Joel,” at the same time as I hear Joel say, “Hey, wait up, Genie.”
I slow only slightly, still dying of embarrassment, but he catches up.
“Do you want to grab a bite before you go home?” he asks. I'm sure he feels sorry for me with what just went down. We all knew what Coach Terri had been referring to.
“I have to work on my paper,” I say, and keep walking. His hand on my arm forces me to stop. I finally look up at him, and I see the concern in his deep brown eyes.
“Don't worry about what Coach â wait, are you crying?”
“I'm not, it's nothing,” I reassure him.
Let me get home, where I can be mortified in private.
“Listen, what Coach Terri said, I mean, yeah, we've all noticed you're, well, different these days. But it's no big deal. You're still the same Genie, right?”
His kind words start up the waterworks again, and he reaches out to give me an awkward hug. For a moment, I feel his arms tighten, and I imagine what it would be like if Pete held me like this.
Joel's so sweet; I wish he could find someone equally awesome. Hmmâ¦ maybe that'll be up to me. With a newfound smile, I pull away, patting him on the shoulder as I wipe my eyes. “Thanks, Joel. I needed that.” Who would be his perfect girl?
He seems confused by my abrupt about-face and shifts his feet. “So, are you sure you don't have time for a quick dinner?” he asks, looking down at the floor.
“I do have to get going.” I have a match to make! And homework, too. “Thanks, though. See you tomorrow,” I tell him before hurrying out to the parking lot. My wet hair stiffens from the cold, and I start the car, hoping the engine warms up before I turn into an icicle. Even though I'm a native New Englander, winter still gets to me sometimes. I pull a fleece hat over my hair and ears and shiver.
At home, I am greeted by a waft of warm air at the door, scented with the smell of fresh bread and tomato sauce. My mouth waters.
“Thank goodness for bread machines and crock pots,” my grandfather says, entering the brightly lit front hall at the sound of my greeting. “We knew you were staying late but didn't know when you'd be home, so it's almost all ready and waiting. I have to finish cooking the pasta. Can you and MamÃ¨re make the salad?”
“Sure,” I respond, cheered up more to be home with a hot meal and my supportive grandparents waiting. “Let me put my stuff down first, though.”
After hanging up my jacket and wet swim gear, I toss my backpack at the bottom of the long wooden staircase and then return to the kitchen. MamÃ¨re is already in there, chopping up the romaine lettuce. I assemble the other ingredients on the worn laminate countertop and then wash and chop them.
As we work, my grandmother asks me about my day. I hesitate to tell her, but before long, it all comes tumbling out, about my wishes gone awry, and about Coach Terri's comment.
MamÃ¨re's brow furrows. “Well, that wasn't right,” she says.
“I know, MamÃ¨re, but Coach Terri is usually great. As soon as she said it, she looked upset. I don't want to make an even bigger deal of all this.” I sigh. I feel better having gotten the whole incident off my chest â so to speak. We sit down at the dinner table, and I resolve out loud to be more cautious about how I use my wishes, leaving out the part where I plan to help my friends. And I promise to work hard on my
Crime and Punishment
paper tonight, the normal, human way. They agree with me.
“Glad to hear you're being sensible, EugÃ©nie.” MamÃ¨re nods and helps herself to thirds. “Oh, Patrick, how I love your cooking. You know that's why I married you.” She winks at him.
“It's the magic of those wonderful appliances, my dear. Where would I be without them?” he counters. Papa is a big fan of what he calls
, though I think he includes microwaves and telephones in that grouping. Well, it makes him a good salesperson at his hardware store. Crock pots are a major hit among St. Philomenians of every generation due to my grandfather's sales pitch.
I roll my eyes at them both and announce I'm going up to my room. I grab a package of chocolate cookies to snack on while I work, figuring the glass of milk I'm also bringing to dip them in makes it a balanced meal.
Upstairs in my room, I am distracted with thoughts of my mother's diary resting in my nightstand. Instead, I try to focus on my paper and am typing away on my laptop when I get a text.
Yup. Workng on C+P. U?
U seemd upset.
IM fine, but I have a mil thngs 2 do. UR sweet. THx 4 bng a gd frnd.
Happy 2 hlp. Gnite.
I sit there for a moment, unable to get my head back into the paper, so I decide to indulge myself and allow for a brief peek into my mother's diary.
You still have homework.
What theâ¦? Since when has this diary become aware of my life, too?
The more you read about me, the more our lives intertwine. Now, get back to work!
It doesn't snap itself shut this time, but instead goes blank.
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. My life has already veered into the realm of the incredible; why not add an interactive, seventeen-year-old diary into the mix? I certainly have had to suspend disbelief over the past week. Sighing, I do as my mother tells me and get back to work. This time, though, I sit down and review the paper my wish from last night produced. Like the history timeline I turned in earlier today, this also reads like a college-level essay, complete with footnotes and an annotated bibliography â beyond my current abilities.
Though I am a pretty good writer, I doubt Ms. Hemenway would believe this is my paper. I decide to work backward, and recreate it in my own words, so I make an outline based on what is in front of me, and then re-write it all. I had read the book, so it isn't too much of a problem. At last, just before midnight, I make a final save to my H drive. I'm feeling much better about it at this point.
I get ready for bed and have just flipped my light off when I get a text from Leia.
Saw ur lite a min ago. U awake?
Sorry 4got 2 call. Busy w hmwrk.
My cell rings a second later, and I crawl into bed to cuddle under my blanket while I chat with Leia.
Crime and Punishment
homework,” I tell her. “So glad to get that over with. Now midterms coming up in a couple of weeksâ¦”
“Yeah, yeah. There's always more work to do,” she interrupts. “More importantly, you haven't been talking to me. I want to know what's going on. You look different. You're acting different. It kind of feels like you're avoiding me.”
“I have a lot on my mind. And, yes, my new body has required anâ¦ adjustment,” I say. “Today, after practice, Coach Terri made a comment about my body being a distraction. I felt so humiliated in front of Joel, though he was sweet to me later.”
“What? Tell me the whole story,” she says.
So I tell her all about it, including the part about Joel's reaction.
“Oh, what a guy. Yeah, he's sweet, all right.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” I ask, defensive.
“Isn't it obvious he's noticing your huge boobs, and, like every other guy at school, is totally coming on to you? I mean, whatever. He's not being